Once in a while you manage to witness something you may never get to see again: a star on the rise captivating an audience in such a way that it's clear the entertainer has some serious star quality. More substance than hype, Odd Future-related singer Frank Ocean managed to silence naysayers with a terrific 70-minute set at Club Soda that saw him display his full vocal abilities.
Ocean started off the evening with a faithful rendition of Sade's "By Your Side," which left the majority of the younger crowd lost. Backed by a pair of acoustic guitars, the LA by way of NOLA native then slid into the tune "Summer Remains." The real sing-along started on third song "Thinkin Bout You." Loud piercing shrieks accompanied the first few notes of the song, and the crowd was finally excited to hear something familiar.
Backed by a simple screen showing smaller television sets that played different clips, the man born Christopher "Lonny" Breaux could have taken the easy way out by booking a DJ for the tour. Instead, Frank Ocean chose to work harder at his stage show and was backed by a four-piece band. This added an interesting dimension to beat-based songs, including the set highlight "Swim Good." Songs that normally felt club-ready suddenly had a sprawling, crescendo-like element to them, exploring the musical peaks and valleys absent in the original recordings.
The set list cherry-picked the better songs off of 2011's mix tape nostalgia, ULTRA, and his recently-released first proper studio effort channel ORANGE. The nostalgia, ULTRA cut "Strawberry Swing" was placed in the middle of the set, with the vocal hook from the Watch the Throne track "Made in America" tacked on the end. Pausing only for a second, the band began playing "American Wedding." Originally performed over the instrumental to the Eagles track "Hotel California," the newly-reimagined song stripped away the familiar guitar riff in favour of emotive atmospherics, placing Ocean's vocals at the forefront even more than the studio track could.
The 10-minute opus "Pyramids" was the perfect way to close out the set, and had the entire venue moving to a hypnotic bass line leitmotif that shook the walls. The song moved from catchy section to catchy section and the majority of the crowd was dancing and singing along without missing a beat.
The only downside to the show had little to do with Ocean himself; the young crowd had their cellphones in the air for the majority of the show, preferring to capture the event instead of living in the moment. It was a bit harder to see the stage when a wall of iPhones and Android phones were held high, blocking the view. Such are the perils of living in the digital age, and it was a small trade-off to witness such a great spectacle.
By Your Side (Sade cover)
Thinkin' About You
Super Rich Kids
Strawberry Swing > Made In America tag
Pink Matter (encore)